The Gambia has kicked off construction of a major conference centre at Bijilo National Park despite opposition from conservationists.
The conference centre will help the tiny country host prominent leaders from the Islamic world at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in 2019.
President Adama Barrow laid the foundation stone Thursday of the Gambia International Conference Centre at Bijilo National Park home to a variety of birds and monkeys.The project is Chinese government-sponsored and is expected to be complete in 2019.
To be constructed at a cost of US$50 million, the conference centre would provide a sitting capacity of up 1,000 people. It will have four conference halls with hundreds of sitting capacity, one VIP room, four press rooms, 14 meeting rooms, offices, banquet halls and entertainment spaces with a wonderful view of the sea on the sideways.
President Barrow said that the Gambia International Conference Centre will put the country in a good position to attract and host regional, sub-regional and international conferences.
“We hope that this will create vast employment opportunities for youth and boast markets for the tourism sector as well as provide avenues for top decision makers to visit the country,” Mr Barrow said.
China has a long history in Gambia. Construction of the Bakau Independence stadium and the Judiciary complex building in Banjul have all been constructed by China.
The Chinese Ambassador to Gambia Zhang Jiming said the ICC project is a good embodiment of China’s policy principles towards Africa.
“The ICC project demonstrates China’s resolve to closely combine its own development with assisting the development of Gambia and Africa as a whole so as to realize win-win cooperation for common development,” he said.
But environmental activists say the Bijilo Monkey Park has been scarified to pave way for the contraction of the conference centre.
Bijilo National Park is home to monkies
The Park is home to different species of monkies and was gazetted in 1954 as part of the protected Bijilo Forest and Nature Trail.
Over 133 bird species have been recorded in the Bijilo Forest Park including such interesting species as the black-necked weaver, red-billed hornbill, greater honeyguide, bearded barbet, oriole warbler, palm-nut vulture and long-tailed nightjar.
Despite spirited efforts by activists to stop the destruction of the park The Gambia government has forged ahead with the project saying it will create employment to hundreds of youth in the country.